Long gone are the days when business simply focussed on business. Companies no longer just sell products and services. The rise of ecommerce — intertwined with the revolutionary rumblings of the internet — has meant that customers have greater powers to search, review and critique business products and practices.
Overwhelmingly, customers are not only buying products but the ethical practices behind them. And according to one report, 88% of customers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly. If we’re buying something from a brand, but then find out that beneath the gloss of the surface they use questionable — at best — practices then we’re probably going to hold an uncomfortable feeling towards that brand.
Salesforce have carried out its own research into this: customers that consider a brand with good ethics are 69% more willing to spend more and 86% more likely to become loyal, while brands considered to have poor ethics are likely to see their customers walk away and choose an alternative.
When it comes to trying to live the ethical life, it seems that companies are an obstacle rather than a way to achieve inner contentment. The report found that 43% of customers currently believe that brands make it more difficult to live sustainably and ethically.
So the goal is clear (customers are increasingly wanting brands to engage and help out with social and environmental causes) despite the current practices (at least from the eyes of the customers) failing.
So what are better ethical practices and business strategies that can put your shop onside? The answer very much depends on a number of factors that will limit or expand the possibilities available to you. Many places offer discounts if you bring your own coffee cups to a store, or for customers who bring their own containers for weigh-and-pay food places.
In terms of ecommerce, one of the most crucial factors is how you host your website, because which ecommerce platform you use to host your site will provide you with a different set of tools to implement changes. The most comprehensive among these — in our humble opinion — which is armed with an arsenal of functionality is Salesforce B2C Commerce Cloud. So let’s look at a few examples.
Social and environmental consciousness appears to be gaining in greater stature across the retail sector. And implementing alternative practices doesn’t even have to cause much disruption. Like a sliding scale, they can be as minimal or as maximal as you like — whether it’s simply setting up a donation function on the homepage or a complete overhaul of which factories you decide to work with.
The first practice is setting up micro-donations on your homepage or mobile app. These can be used for a whole host of reasons from sponsoring a local community project to raising money for an ongoing campaign. We’re currently living through the best example of this: After I write this article, I’m going to order food due to the ongoing lockdown — and due to a dash of laziness. From the three food delivery apps that I use — is that too many? — all of them give me the option of giving money that will go towards the employees at the restaurant, given the crippling effects of the lockdown is having on staff. Simply by ordering food you can make a small positive social impact — surely that must taste better!
The second practice is environmental discounts that can be put into place for a number of sales. Consider that you’re a company that typically sells more than one item per customer. You can set as part of your payment and delivery page discounts for people who order products without additional packaging, and thus saving on plastic waste. “But how would I carry my stuff from the door to the kitchen?” I hear you cry. Well, just reach for your reusable shopping bag and head to the front door!
Thirdly, with increasing demand for goods to be brought to the door, providing options for eco deliveries, such as bicycle deliveries or ecar deliveries, will give customers the option to cut their carbon footprint as well as your own. And remind them of this! Maybe display in percentage terms how much Co2 is not used when selecting bicycle delivery.
From a brand’s perspective, equally as important to elevating business ethics is to find the best way of communicating how you’re taking stronger steps on social and environmental issues — because although it’d be great if you decided to pay a living wage to every single employer through your company’s operations network right down to your subsidiaries, yet you found no way of publicly communicating this, your customers are not going to hear about it, and you’d be missing a key moment to pull in the growing group of customers that are putting ethics into their shopping basket, too.